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With recent court filings, Mueller puts ‘cards on the table’

Court papers released Friday are “enormously significant,” and outline alleged crimes and misdeeds of President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as well as his former campaign advisor Paul Manafort, says Ilya Marritz, co-host of the “Trump, Inc.” podcast. For more details, Marritz joins Hari Sreenivasan in New York.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The most recent revelations about President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the president's former campaign manager Paul Manafort offered more information about past dealings, both financial and political, in the Trump Organization.

    For an inside look at how Mr. Trump's campaign and businesses are connected, and what Cohen and Manafort may know, we're joined by Ilya Marritz, a host of the podcast "Trump, Inc." — that's a joint reporting project from New York public radio station WNYC and ProPublica. First of all, going back to just this past week, how significant were these documents?

  • ILYA MARRITZ:

    Oh, they were enormously significant. We've added a lot to our knowledge and understanding of not only where Robert Mueller's probe may be headed but the specific crimes, misdeeds, accused crimes that Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort engaged in. On my way up here, I was on the subway and the guy was reading The New York Post and the headline was "Donald Trump's no good, horrible, very bad day." And that's really, I think, how Friday played out for him in these court filings.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Let's start first with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. What did we learn?

  • ILYA MARRITZ:

    Right. Well, so Robert Mueller released late on Friday his memo to a judge describing the ways in which Paul Manafort is in breach of a cooperation agreement that he made with the government just a couple of months ago. Large sections of that document were redacted. But what we were able to see is that Mueller is very interested in the role of Konstantin Kilimnik. Konstantin Kilimnik was a translator for Paul Manafort when he was doing work in Ukraine. He's considered by U.S. intelligence agencies to be a Russian asset, a Russian intelligence asset. And Paul Manafort, evidently, according to Robert Mueller, lied on many occasions about the nature of his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, the content of those contacts. It's very interesting because Kilimnik is considered somebody who might be a go-between between Trump world and the Kremlin. We don't know that, but it certainly adds a layer of interest there.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    A different dimension with his former personal attorney Michael Cohen?

  • ILYA MARRITZ:

    Michael Cohen has sentencing memos in two separate matters. One is in the Southern District of New York and that concerns hush money payments to women who allegedly had affairs with Donald Trump and some of his own financial dealings — tax avoidance and stuff like that — and then a separate sentencing memo from Robert Mueller's team, and that concerns his lies to Congress.

    On the surface these two memos appear to be pretty different. Robert Mueller saying Michael Cohen has cooperated, he's given us good information, and we recommend a sentence that takes that into account. The Southern District prosecutors say that Cohen has not fully acknowledged his crimes. He looks at them with rose-colored glasses and seems to be minimizing his role. But really I think they're not that far apart, because both of these memos have a lot to say about Individual 1. Individual 1 is Donald Trump. And both of these memos implicate Donald Trump and the Trump campaign in some of Michael Cohen's misdeeds. So one example, these hush money payments to actresses who said they had affairs with Donald Trump, Michael Cohen was the man who arranged those hush money payments, but it was the Trump Organization at the direction of Donald Trump, according to some of these filings, that made this happen.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And it is illegal to have some sort of a campaign contribution, right?

  • ILYA MARRITZ:

    That's right.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And that's kind of what this is perceived to be. If this is hush money, it is that it is helping your campaign by keeping this information out of the public sphere. When you look at the president's Twitter feed or his lawyers, they're saying these documents vindicate him, that there's no collusion with Russia. This is the, you know, the wild goose chase, the "witch hunt," as he likes to call it.

  • ILYA MARRITZ:

    Well, that doesn't seem to be the case. There's a lot of mentions of Individual 1, who we know is Donald Trump. And then in Paul Manafort's, and other filings that we've seen recently, there's huge redacted sections. So I think Robert Mueller is sort of putting his cards on the table, but some of them are face up and some of them are face down. Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, he tweeted about John Edwards, the former Democratic candidate for president, who went to trial on an illegal campaign contributions charge and he was not convicted, and that was a big black eye for the government. That is one example to watch. Perhaps these cases are not so easy to bring. But Robert Mueller appears to have a lot of confidence about this particular charge, and he really seems to be focusing in on it.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Ilya Marritz from the podcast "Trump, Inc." — a joint reporting project between WNYC and ProPublica. Thanks for joining us.

  • ILYA MARRITZ:

    Thank you very much.

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